Life can be stressful on even the best of days. The recent COVID-19 global pandemic has added to this stress. From businesses and schools closing to slow the spread of the virus, the uncertainty of the global economy, and the pressures of remote working to the anxiety of social isolation and fears of contracting the virus, it’s safe to say that COVID-19 has made daily life more stressful for many of us.
What is Stress?
Stress is how the body and brain respond to any demand, situation, or worry we experience as beyond our control. Whether it’s the pressure to perform at work or school, a significant change in our life, or a traumatic event, everyone experiences and reacts to stress in different ways.
In small amounts, stress can be helpful. Stress creates a boost of adrenaline, which provides the additional energy and drive we need to help us work well under pressure. However, excessive amounts of stress can impact our physical and mental health.
The Impact of Stress on the Brain
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the amygdala and the hippocampus are the two areas of the brain that are responsible for the production and processing of anxiety. When we encounter a threat, either perceived or tangible, our brain releases a burst of chemicals, such as cortisol and norepinephrine. These chemicals cause our hearts to pump faster in order to get more blood and oxygen circulating through our bodies; we essentially go into “survival mode.”
According to Dr. Kerry Ressler, chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, studies conducted on both animals and people clearly show how unmanaged stress can impact how the brain functions. Research correlates prolonged stress and anxiety to structural degeneration of the hippocampus and impaired functioning of the prefrontal cortex. Over time, this long-term wear and tear will increase the risk of cognitive problems, to include dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Impact of Stress on Your Health
While small amounts of stress can be healthy, when left to fester, long-term stress and anxiety can lead to a large variety of psychological, physical, behavioral, and emotional problems. Common symptoms of stress and include:
- Physical aches and pains
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Chest pains and heart palpitations
- Problems sleeping or insomnia
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of sex drive
- Upset stomach and diarrhea
- Loss of energy
- And more
Simple Tips to Manage Stress
During these increased times of stress, now more than ever, it’s important to find ways to manage our stress levels. According to Rebecca Moses, of Groom + Style, “Different people will experience different reactions to stress. It’s up to you to recognize your own patterns and reactions. Don’t discount outside perspectives, however, since loved ones can help to point out our behaviors. Once you notice your stress escalating, you can start to intervene with relaxation.”
While it’s impossible to eliminate all stress from our lives, Moses reminds us how important stress management is for our health, stating that “Stress management can help to decrease stress levels over time, improve reactions to stressful events, and decrease your risk of developing stress-related diseases.”
Some simple methods for managing stress include:
- Recognizing and identifying your stress factors (i.e., what is causing your stress)
- Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga
- Physical activity
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Strengthen personal relationships
- Keep a journal
- Do things that bring you joy and happiness
- Get in touch with your creative side
Brain Training During Social Isolation
During these uncertain times, it’s important to recognize that you are not alone. The recent global pandemic has turned our world upside down. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic, regions across the world have mandated social distancing and mass quarantines to help slow and stop the spread of the virus.
Whether you are struggling with keeping your children engaged during extended school closures or are a professional working remotely from home looking to keep your mind sharp, brain training with the professionals at The Brain Workshop is designed to help. Our customised one-on-one brain training mental exercises are designed to strengthen specific cognitive skills. Stronger cognitive skills translate to real-life improvements in memory, clarity, attention, logic, and processing speed.
In response to the global pandemic, we have modified our programs to adhere to current social isolation guidelines while allowing you to experience the benefits of brain training from home. Our team is currently offering the following remote brain training services via secure video conferencing apps:
- BrainRx Training
- Rubik’s Cube Classes
- Creative Writing Sessions
- Emotional Intelligence Sessions
If you are looking for more information on how to have a stress-free day or would like to learn more about brain training, contact a member of our team to schedule your free cognitive assessment.